She started working for the Kentucky Baptist Convention at the same time as former KBC Executive Director Bill Marshall. She since has worked under two other executive directors.
The KBC business manager at the time was reluctant to hire her, she has heard, since he didn’t think she’d stay very long because of her degree in interior design. But Debbie Bannon proved everyone wrong.
Now administrative assistant in the Executive Office, Bannon is retiring after 35 years with the KBC. In fact, she currently holds the second longest active tenure, behind Don Spencer with 41 years.
“I feel the Lord was preparing me for this position,” Bannon told coworkers at her retirement banquet. After graduating from Eastern Kentucky University—where her mom felt she’d majored in Baptist Student Union—her desire was to be an interior designer, but God had another design for her life.
When a position came open in the KBC’s Student Department, Tom Smoot, then campus minister at the University of Louisville, encouraged her to consider BSU work.
Bannon still recalls what life was like back then, with no computers, no email and no internet. “I had a typewriter; it was electric,” she said. “We used carbon paper and onion skin paper for copies.”
Then computers arrived. “Wow! What a learning curve!” she exclaimed. “The only mouse I’d heard of at that time, I certainly didn’t want to touch! And a curser was someone I didn’t want to be around!” she laughed.
Before email, KBC staffers communicated by typing office memos, she recollected. “I was on the second floor of the old (KBC) building, so I had to go down stairs to the copier, run copies off on yellow paper, and then run around the building distributing them to each office.”
To make long distance calls, KBC staffers shared a Wats Line. Employees called the switchboard lady to put their name on a waiting list. “When it was your turn, she’d call your desk,” Bannon remembered.
With 35 years under her wing, you’d expect her to have some stories to tell.
“When I moved from the Student Department to the Executive Office (about 20 years ago), it was like moving from the zoo to the library!” she exclaimed, confiding she’d struggled with changing to a more serious working environment.
On her first April Fool’s Day as an administrative assistant in the Executive Office, she passed a phone message to then Executive Associate Jim Hawkins to “call Mr. Lyons,” with the phone number of the Louisville Zoo. She figured he’d “catch it right off,” but later she overheard him asking to speak to Mr. Lyons. “The zoo staffer had to explain it to him,” she chuckled. “Fortunately, he was a good sport and came out laughing.”
Then there was the time a horrible stench occurred in the Executive Office that lasted for weeks, maybe longer. “We concluded that some animal had died somewhere in the wall,” she said. “It was so bad, Pat (Beverly) and I had to burn scented candles to be able to stay in the office.
“Finally, Bob Hummel, our maintenance guy, found it,” she continued. “The squirrel had gotten into the duct work and couldn’t find a way out, and so had died right over top of Bill Mackey’s desk!”
“You don’t have to have a good sense of humor to work here, but it helps,” she laughed.
Most messengers will remember seeing Bannon at the registration table for KBC annual meetings. She also recorded minutes for the Administrative Committee, most convention committees and several Mission Board committees. Always willing to take on additional assignments, she also served on the staff social and wellness committees.
As for her future plans, sleeping late and going to the swimming pool any time she wants is at the top. She is also looking forward to working at Vacation Bible School for the first time since she was a teenager. And she’ll continue playing the piano for a ladies’ ensemble at her church, bike riding and doing water aerobics, along with spending more time with her family. Whatever she does, it’ll be some well-deserved free time.